Redbirds dominate Carmi-White County


A smothering defense allowed the West Frankfort Redbirds to break a close game open Tuesday night. The Redbirds scored a 58-42victory over visiting Carmi-White County.

The game opened slowly as neither team scored until the halfway point of the first quarter. At the end of the first eight minutes, the score was tied 8-8.

At the halfway point, the Redbirds and Bulldogs had battled closely with the Redbirds taking an intermission lead of 19-16.

The Redbirds forced turnovers in the third quarter and kept Carmi-White County out of their comfortable shooting zones. Eric Dixon’s team became their own worst enemy as the game dragged on. They shot three-point shots freely, rarely connecting. and, in doing so went away from offensive rebounding which had produced results in the first half.

In quarter three, the Redbirds got balanced, scoring Braxton Koehl with 7 points and Trenton Easley had 6 in the frame. By quarter’s end, the ‘Birds had opened a 38-26 lead and had captured the momentum.

The fourth quarter saw the Redbirds open the lead even further, enroute to the 16 point win.

And, with that win, Dan Dewerff’s team ran their record to 2-5 for the season. Scoring for the Redbirds included:  Trenton Easley and Christian Dunning with 15 points each, Nick Korolenko had 10,,Braxton Koehl had 9, Keller, and Maller had 4 points apiece, and Fort had a single free throw.
The Redbirds and Carmi-White County each had 20 rebounds.
Carmi-White County came from behind to win the JV game 51-45 after the Redbirds had opened up a fourth quarter lead.
The Redbirds now prepare for visiting Benton on Friday night. This was a game scheduled to begin the 2012-13 basketball season until Benton requested a reschedule. The junior varsity game begins at 6 p.m. Friday, and the varsity game approximately 7:45 p.m.

West Frankfort schools work on district-wide safety plan


A moment of silence for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting was observed at the start of the Frankfort Community Unit School District board’s regular meeting Monday night, and it became evident throughout the meeting that the Connecticut massacre was at the top of local board members’ and school administrators’ minds.

“Safety is a priority for us year-round,” said Board Chairman Jerry Eader. “We are looking at options to better secure our buildings, inform our staff and update our policies.”

Central Junior High Principal Charley Cass reported to the board that progress is being made on a district-wide safety plan.

“Right now we all have really, really good individual plans, but we need a plan that strings us all together,” he said.

Cass is chairing a committee to better coordinate safety plans between the schools. He said the group is working on items such as ensuring that common terminology is used at all the district’s buildings. “‘Code Blue’ should mean the same thing everywhere,” he said.

The committee’s work should be complete in early 2013, he reported. The district-wide plan will be brought to the school board for approval.

Principals at all four West Frankfort school buildings told the board they were reviewing their safety plans with teachers and staff this week.

The Crisis Intervention Team at Frankfort Community High School will meet with a school resource officer and state police representative in January to review safety plans and look for tips and other ways to secure the buildings, Principal Danny Stevens said.

Frankfort Intermediate School Principal Mark Zahm said his staff acted quickly Monday when someone tried to access the school through the wrong set of doors.

“He was there to drop off a pair of glasses to a student, but he was at the wrong door, and wearing a hood,” Zahm said. “My phone was ringing within 20 seconds. My teachers are always watching.”

Zahm said the school’s many entrances sometimes make the front door hard to find, and better signage pointing to the main office may be needed.

Special Education teacher Toni Brookhouse told the board that teachers at Frankfort Intermediate are concerned at the way they have to step out of the doors to ensure they are locked properly, and that there are windows next to the doors that can be broken out to gain access to the building. Denning Elementary Principal LeeAnn Miller said there were similar concerns at her building.

“We will do whatever we can to secure our buildings,” Eader said.

In other action, the Frankfort Community Unit School District 168 Board of Education:

  • Approved its property tax levy following a public hearing in which no public comment was made. Superintendent Dr. Greg Goins said the district has one of the lowest tax rates in Southern Illinois, and he projects a lower tax rate next year.
  • Approved a calendar of 2013 school board meetings. The regular meeting will continue to be at 6 p.m. on the third Monday of the month. Three meetings will be moved next year. The January meeting will be held Jan. 22 because of a conflict with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The February meeting will be held Feb. 25 because of a conflict with President’s Day. The September meeting will be held Sept. 23 to allow for a 30-day notice for the budget hearing.
  • Had the first reading of a revision to board policy 8-80 regarding community relations. The additions to the policy set out a procedure for naming of school facilities for people who have made substantial, lasting contributions, and for benefactors who have provided at least 50 percent of the cost of building or renovating a school facility. Goins said the policy provides safeguards for the board, and a clear way to approve naming a facility, reject the naming of a facility, or take the name away later if conditions warrant. Eader said with a new facility (a proposed new high school) on the horizon, a new revenue source could be naming of facilities. “That’s why we came up with this,” Eader said.



Redbirds at home tonight


The West Frankfort Redbird boys junior and varsity basketball teams are at home Tuesday night. The Redbirds play host to visiting Carmi-White County in a non-conference game.

The Redbirds are coming off a lopsided loss Friday at Herrin, 73-35.

The JV game begins at 6 p.m., and Varsity game approximately 7:45 p.m.

Both games can be heard online at

Tigers hand Redbirds big loss


General George Custer got a warmer reception at Little Bighorn than the Redbirds received Friday night at Herrin. Entering the game, both teams had won only once. Pre-game talk among the fans was a close game was expected. Then, reality set in. Final score: Herrin 73-West Frankfort 35.

A relentless trapping zone defense forced the Redbirds into three consecutive turnovers to begin the game. Still, early, the Redbirds held it close as Herrin struggled offensively. In fact, Nick Korolenko’s jumper tied the game at a bucket apiece three minutes into the contest.

However, Herrin corrected their offensive mistakes – and the ‘Birds never did. At the end of the first quarter Herrin held a commanding 17-2 lead. Still, there was hope. A week ago, Irvin Lukens’ club held a huge lead over Benton. But, the Rangers came back to win that game in overtime. The Redbirds would not be as lucky. Mistakes continued to haunt the “Birds into the second quarter and by half Herrin’s lead had ballooned to 38-8 .

In the second quarter, the ‘Birds offense did show some signs of a slight pulse. That continued in the third quarter.  Quarter Three was the most productive quarter of basketball for West Frankfort  Friday night. The Redbirds put 17 points on the Memorial Gym scoreboard in that frame. This was in part aided by two three-point shots from sophomore Braxton Koehl and a pair of buckets by sophomore Christian Dunning.

But, by then, the Redbirds also had quit defending the lane,and were giving up easy buckets off drives and entry passes. Herrin’s Jeril Pirtle used that quarter to knife his way through the porous defense for 9 third quarter points. teammate Justin Lukens had 8 in the quarter as Herrin substituted freely. Both teams finished the long ago decided game with bench personnel.

Herrin was led by the 26 points from Justin Lukens, son of the Herrin varsity basketball coach, Irv Lukens. Justin Lukens had quarters of 9,9 and 7 points, sitting out much of the fourth quarter. Pirtle ended up with 15 points for the game. No other Tiger scored more than 6 points.

Christian Dunning was the lone Redbird in double figures with 14 points. Korolenko had 7 points. Koehl had the two three-point shots mentioned earlier for a total of 6, senior Trenton Easley had 3 points, Drew Maller and Zack Fort had 2 points apiece and Gage Williams had a free throw for a single point.

The major statistic in the game was turnovers. Herrin committed 8 for the game. West Frankfort had 23 turnovers, as they were helpless against Herrin zone defenses and extended court pressure. The inability to even get shots attempted negated any hope of a comeback  for Dan Dewerff’s team.

The win improves Herrin to 2-5, 1-1 in conference play for the season. And, the Redbirds fell to 1-5, 0-2 in the Ohio Division of the River-to-River Conference. If there is any good news for the ‘Birds it is that they have time to regroup. Saturday night is an idle night for the Redbirds- a chance to forget one of those inevitable nights in the gym when nothing seems to go right – which happens to most every team.
Herrin easily won the junior-varsity contest, keeping the JVs winless with a 54-26 victory.
Next up for the Redbirds is a visit from Carmi-White County. That game will be Tuesday night, with the JV game set to begin at 6 p.m.

Lady Indians score road victory at West Frankfort

A furious third quarter comeback by the West Frankfort Lady Redbirds could not keep visiting Johnston city from scoring a 49-44 victory Saturday afternoon. The non-conference game was played at Max Morris Gym.
Johnston City dominated the first half, leading 9-5 after one quarter. In the second quarter the Indians took a commanding27-17 lead into the locker room. But, the Lady Redbirdss caught fire in quarter three and made up a huge difference outscoring Johnston City 12-4. The Indians stopped the comeback with an 18-14 advantage in the
last frame.
Scoring for the lady Redbirds: Wilce 12, Calvert 9, Cunningham 8, Stewart 8, Melvin 4, and Sailiez 1.

Patriots beat Redbirds in Ohio opener


The Massac County Patriots defeated the West Frankfort Redbirds Friday night. The game was the conference opener for both ball clubs. Once the Patriots ran their lead to double digits, they seemed to draw a line in the sand. Only a few times did the pesky Redbirds cross that line, getting no closer than 4 points.  And, Massac County began drawing that line by first quarter’s end, up 19-10.

The Redbirds were outscored 12-10 in the second quarter, after making some runs at the Patriots. In the second quarter, the Patriots found some holes in the Redbird defense that allowed Devontay Blye to drive to the goal. Autin Kendall hit a shot and got a stick back bucket as well to lengthen the Patriot lead to 31-20 at intermission.

The third quarter turned into a Dalton Mitchell-Braxton Koehl heavyweight match up. Mitchell blistered the nets for 10 points in the third quarter. He sank two three-point shots in the process. Sophomore Koehl, a Redbird starter, added a dozen points in the frame, with two field goals and ten for ten free throw accuracy. But, by quarter’s end, the determined Redbirds still trailed, but by only 10 points,51-41.

Massac County put the game away with a 23-11 scoring advantage over the last eight minutes. Trenton Easley sank a three-point shot as a highlight of the frame for West Frankfort.  The Redbird bench added the only other two field goals, one by Jacob Bartoni and one by Drew Maller.

Scoring for the ‘Birds included: 15 for Koehl, 11 Easley, 9 for Fort, 8 Maller ( who started game for injured Christian Dunning), 6 for Nic Korolenko, 2 Bartoni and 1 point for Evan Keller.

Unofficially, Massac County out-rebounded the home team 28-22. Both teams turned it over 13 times in the game.

With the loss, the Redbirds are now 1-4 for the season. They drop to 0-1 for the Ohio Division play.

The next game for the Redbirds will be a Friday road game at Herrin. The Junior Varsity lost their game 60-27 and remain winless.

Late basket lifts Lady Redbirds


A late basket by senior Rebecca Cunningham lifted the West Frankfort Lady Redbirds to a thrilling 28-27 win over visiting Anna-Jonesboro on Thursday night.

The Lady Redbirds had built an early 7-2 lead, and it was their largest of the game. In the second half, it also looked like the ‘Birds would pull away after building a 4-point lead. However, a determined Lady Wildcat team kept cutting those leads. After trailing initially, Anna-Jonesboro held a 15-13 lead at the half. and, indicative of the flow of this game, the Lady Redbirds had grabbed off a 23-21 lead going into the fourth quarter.

AJ took a one point lead after a dramatic three-point shot by Kaitie Grant with 5:16 to play. The Redbirds tied the game with a free throw at the 4:48 mark left. The game stayed tied at 26 apiece until Grant hit a free throw to give the visitors the one point lead with :53 seconds to go.
Both teams could not find the range, and both teams committed mistakes as the clock wound down. With just :13 seconds remaining Rebecca Cunningham fired a little jump shot in the lane to give the Redbirds a 28-27 lead. Anna-Jonesboro had a chance down the stretch but missed a key free throw, as did the Redbirds. A final shot hit the rim that could have won the game for the Wildcats.
West Frankfort Coach Matt Hampleman was happy with the win, but still admitted there were a lot of things to work on.
“We ran the sets we wanted to run, but couldn’t finish it off,” he said.
One of the areas needing work was free-throw shooting where the Redbirds were 5 of 12, or 42 percent, from the line. The Redbirds were also plagued by turnovers.
Coach Hampleman pointed out that the Birds are somewhat young, at times with three freshmen on the floor.  But, Hampleman put it into perspective, saying,  “Any win is a good win in front of our fans.”
Scoring for the Redbirds included Kiarha Wilce 10, Rebecca Cunningham with 8,Lindsey Williams 5,Jacklynn Calvert 4 and Hanna Melvin 1.
The game also marked the return of Jordan Crowder. However, it was short lived on Thursday as she was re-injured in the contest.
With the win, the Lady Redbirds are 3-7 and will host Johnston City on Saturday.

West Frankfort native releases Christmas CD

West Frankfort native Jonathon Willis


As many people adopt the “Shop Local” and “Shop Small” mantras at Christmas, Franklin County residents can ensure that even their Christmas music was “made in Southern Illinois,” so to speak.

Jonathon Willis, a West Frankfort native, has released “This Christmas Night,” a CD of his original arrangements of classic sacred Christmas songs, just in time for enjoyment and gift-giving this season.

Willis was born into a musical family — his father, Gary, a piano player, and his mother, Harriet, a singer. It was no surprise, then, that Willis was a “natural” when he began taking lessons at a young age. After graduating from Frankfort Community High School in 1988, he continued his musical training at Murray State University in Murray, Ky.

During his formative years, he also discovered a love and an aptitude for computers, and began to find ways to marry the two disciplines together. Willis moved to Nashville in the late 1990s, and there he became an in-demand music technology expert and consultant, as well as an arranger, producer, and player.

He has appeared on many artists’ recordings, including Phil Keaggy, Neal Morse, Newsong, Laura Turner, and Jim Weatherly. He has also written, arranged and produced music for several record labels, as well as music for Carnival and Celebrity cruise ships.

Willis has recorded several solo piano records over the years, and self-released a new CD of original music called simply “Solo Piano” in 2010.

This year has seen the release of his first Christmas album.

“I have had a lot of people over the years ask me when I was going to get around to putting out a Christmas CD,” Willis said. “I’ve been performing my own arrangements of many Christmas songs for a long time at different events. I just felt the time had come to go ahead and do it.”

“This Christmas Night” includes classic Christmas carols, such as “Joy to the World” and “Away in a Manger,” as well as more contemporary sacred Christmas songs, such as “Mary Did You Know” and “Breath of Heaven.” The music is a mix of classical, easy-listening and jazz piano styling, all with Willis’ personal stamp.

“There are songs on this project that really take me back to my childhood, that I think really help evoke a Christmas mood,” Willis said. As for his personal favorites on the album, “I’ve always enjoyed the mystery of the Christmas story, so I’m really drawn to the classic melodies and lyrics of songs like ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ and ‘What Child Is This’.”

For a sampling of the music on “This Christmas Night,” click play on the video below for a short montage of three different songs from the album.

Willis said he made the conscious decision to keep sacred and secular music separate, and just put sacred Christmas music on this album. He plans to release an album of secular holiday music in 2013.

Willis, 42, lives in Spring Hill, Tenn., with his wife of 19 years, Diana, and the couple’s three children.

“This Christmas Night” can be ordered from Willis’ Web site, for $15, which includes shipping.

Redbirds win on the road

Have the West Frankfort Redbirds improved any this year? The answer is “yes”. Friday night the ‘Birds held a 9 point lead on the road, and could not hold it. Tuesday night their lead ballooned to 17 points, but again the opponents made a run at the Redbirds. This time, Dan Dewerff’s team stayed focused, and rebuilt their lead enroute to a 81-71 decision in Eldorado.
Playing some of their best basketball of the year, the Redbirds built on a lead after one quarter and went into the locker room with a 35-25 advantage.
Eldorado came out in quarter three a much more disciplined ball club That allowed them to cut into the Redbird lead. A pair of three point shots in the third and fourth quarter by Richard Graceffa  actually made it a three-point game in the final frame.
However, the Redbirds stayed poised. They ran a series of plays that ended in lay-ups, and trips to the free throw line. Nic Korolenko himself earned two old-fashioned three point plays with a bucket and a free throw twice down the stretch. The last triple trip down the court came with 2:38 remaining.
It was the incredible free throw clinic that Redbirds put on that iced the game for the visitors. In the fourth quarter alone, the Redbirds were of 16 of 19 from the charity line . Trent Easley sealed the win with a 15 of 16 performance in the game. In the fourth quarter alone, Easley hit all 12 free throws he attempted. Sophomore Braxton Koehl got his jumper to fall with consistency, and was an impressive 7 for 10 from the line, too.
The Redbird defense helped cause three key turnovers late in the game that kept Eldorado at arms length in the end. The turnovers came within a minute of each other beginning at the 2:01 mark of the fourth quarter.
West Frankfort was led in scoring with the 20 points of Braxton Koehl, 17 for Trenton Easley, 17 for Nic Korolenko, 8 for Gage Williams, 6 for Zack Fort, 4 Evan Keller, 3 for Drew Maller. Starter Christian Dunning was injured in the first half minute of the ballgame. His physical condition is being evaluated.
The junior varsity lost to Eldorado 54-28 and remain winless.
With the win, the Redbirds are 1-3 for the season. The ‘Birds are home Friday when they host Massac County in the Ohio Division opener for both teams. The JV game begins at 6 p.m.

Lady Redbirds drop conference game


The Herrin Lady Tigers came into Max Morris Gym Tuesday night and scored an impressive road win over the Lady Redbirds 49-25.

Not only was it a big win for the Tigers, but history was made by one of the opposing players. Standout Abby Horn scored her 1,000th point in her varsity career.

The Redbirds again got behind early and had to try to dig themselves out of a hole. At intermission, Herrin had built a 29-15 lead. They outscored Coach Hampleman’s squad 20-10 in the final two quarters to cruise to the win.

The Redbirds were led in scoring by Calvert’s impressive 17 points. From there, it was all two point totals for Wilce, Cunningham, Melvin and Vershuren.

Horn led Herrin with 15 points..

With the win, Herrin is 3-1 on the year. The Lady Redbirds dropped to 2-7 for the season.

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